The Rothermere family is on the verge of a £400m pensions agreement that will pave the way for it to delist the publisher of the Daily Mail and i newspapers after nearly a century as a public company.
Sky News has learnt that Rothermere Continuation Limited (RCL) is close to agreeing a deal with trustees of the Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT)’s three pension schemes – the final obstacle to taking the group private.
The development could be announced within days.
If confirmed, it would lead to Britain’s biggest-selling daily newspaper – among titles subject to circulation audits – returning to fully private ownership.
Precise details of the pension agreement were unclear on Monday evening, but are understood to involve a sum of more than £400m being injected into the DMGT schemes to provide reassurance to trustees that scheme members’ interests are adequately protected.
Lord Rothermere, DMGT’s chairman and the steward of his family’s 36% stake in the company, made an indicative £810m proposal to take it private in July.
The offer was subject to three conditions: the listing of Cazoo, which floated in New York in August at a $7bn valuation, with DMGT’s 17% stake to be distributed to shareholders; the disposal of DMGT’s insurance risk arm, which was sold to Moody’s Corporation in September for £1.4bn; and the agreement of the company’s pension trustees.
Negotiations between the company and the trustees are said to have involved a number of offers, and are the main reason why a formal Takeover Panel ‘Put Up or Shut Up’ (PUSU) deadline has been extended three times.
The most recent extension, granted last week, gave RCL until November 25 to lodge a formal takeover bid.
The Daily Mail was founded in 1896, with the parent company becoming listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1932.
The company’s ownership structure means independent shareholders have little formal influence over the deal, as DMGT’s voting rights are controlled by the Rothermeres.
Spokesmen for DMGT and RCL declined to comment.